New on DVD

Babel (Paramount, R, $29.99):

Built on four narratives, seven languages, and 142 minutes of blather, "Babel" lacks any real cohesion. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu took several good plots – 1) Moroccan goat farmers absentmindedly shoot 2) an American tourist while 3) her kids and their nanny travel to Mexico, and 4) a seemingly unconnected deaf/mute Japanese girl deals with teen angst – and tried to craft them into a towering achievement, but the opus comes up a bit short. In a way, it's too bad that Brad Pitt is the big name in the film. All of Babel's powerful performances were from other, lesser-known actors. Playing a husband scrambling to save his bleeding wife, Pitt seems to hope that if he yells loud enough and grimaces hard enough, Oscars will come running. The DVD has no extra features, which is perhaps for the better. The movie doesn't need any more babbling. Grade: C+
– Chris Gaylord

The Prestige (Touchstone Home Entertainment, PG-13, $29.99):

A warm Michael Caine voice-over begins this film by asking: "Are you watching closely?" If you're not, then wait until you feel more alert. This convoluted yarn has two egomaniacal magicians (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman) going at it as if they were in an installment of the old Spy vs. Spy cartoon. (A "prestige," for the record, is a trick's showy payoff, and the film eventually delivers one.) David Bowie does a turn as inventor Nikola Tesla, injecting a sci-fi component that steals a bit from a plot otherwise built around believable duplicity. Best bonus: a "director's notebook" that ties the film to its Victorian setting. Grade: B–
– Clayton Collins

[Editor's note: The original version reversed the reviews' bylines.]

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